Adam Parascandola, Director Animal Protection & Crisis Response, Humane Society International
Animals are transported globally for a variety of reasons, including the rehoming of animals through adoption, the sale of animals online, and owners traveling internationally with their pets.
Requirements and procedures for transporting animals can vary widely between countries. Some countries require animal identification (eg, microchipping) and proof of rabies vaccination (eg, vaccination certificate, titer testing, quarantine upon arrival) for animal travel. In addition to identification and vaccination documentation, some countries require government inspection and approval before an animal is allowed to leave the country. For example, South Korea requires animals to be presented for inspection before a certificate may be issued by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection service allowing the animal to leave the country.
Animal transport in most countries is strictly regulated to prevent the spread of rabies and zoonotic diseases, but often, laws and regulations are slow to change and have not kept up with the prevalence and emergence of diseases in animals. For example, the Asian strain of canine influenza (H3N2) has been transmitted to several western countries through the import of dogs. Though there may not be legal requirements for canine influenza screening and vaccination, a responsible importer should test and vaccinate for canine influenza before importing a dog from a country where this disease is present. In addition, international animal rescue efforts have increased with the emergence of the Internet and social media. While this global awareness and connectivity has helped save the lives of thousands of animals, individuals or groups transporting rescue animals are responsible for preventing the spread of disease. Pet owners adopting internationally may import an animal with unknown, incomplete, or inaccurate medical records; internationally adopted pets should always be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian upon arrival at their final destination. Veterinarians should be aware of the risks of international pet travel and potential disease transmission and may recommend that pet owners consider at-home quarantine until the health of an imported animal can be examined.
Animal travel regulations also vary depending on whether the animal is being transported as a personal pet or for commercial purposes. In the United States, animals being transported for adoption or rehoming may be considered a commercial purpose, while in the European Union, animals traveling separately from their owners may be considered commercial. Entry requirements for working dogs being transported internationally for the purpose of disaster responses may be expedited or waived if the dog is certified under an internationally recognized response agency. Import and export restrictions can vary not only by country, but even by region, and some countries impose breed restrictions that prohibit the importation of certain breeds entirely. For example, importing and exporting dogs in Indonesia is legal when traveling to or from Jakarta, while the island of Bali forbids both the import and export of dogs. People transporting animals internationally may benefit from the services of an international pet relocation service or broker, required by some airlines and some countries (See Resource). These companies ensure people transporting animals are compliant with laws, while also handling customs fees and retrieval requirements for unaccompanied animals. Ultimately, when transporting animals internationally, it is important to know import and export laws of the animal’s country of origin, as well as the country and local jurisdiction of the final destination.